Monday, September 11, 2023

A Novel Approach to Socialism: Bram Stoker's Dracula (2002)

Party News from the September 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bill Martin will be speaking on Bram Stoker's Dracula and capitalist anxieties of consumption

Venue: 52, Clapham High Street,
Sunday 29th September 29th 6.30pm

The Vampire has emerged in literature as a symbol of desire and lust, the leering monster illicitly stalking into the maiden's bedchamber. Why are people repelled and attracted by the vampire? This talk will place this symbol into its historic context, looking at the class and national relations behind Stoker's classic novel, and relate them to the structures of desire/consumption within that book. It will also look at developments in the image of vampires and what they tell us about the changes in capitalistic imagination since Stoker's day.

Marketing the Revolution (2002)

Book Review from the September 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marketing the Revolution by Michael Mosbacher (Social Affairs Unit, 2002.)

Before we can have socialism a majority of the world’s population will have to stop supporting capitalism and become pro-socialism. But what if the “anti-capitalist” movement proves to be a precursor, not of a fundamentally different form of society (socialism) but simply of another form of capitalism? If the “revolution” is de-fused, emasculated, diverted, usurped, hi-jacked, betrayed – if it is marketed by people who want, not socialism, but a reformed capitalism, then things will change a little but not much. Capitalism will have eaten “anti-capitalism” for breakfast.

According to Mosbacher, something like that is actually happening. Of course, he doesn’t put it quite like that. He writes for the Social Affairs Unit, a body that has good capitalism-supporting credentials. His main theme is that those who support the anti-capitalist movement (and in particular those who attack corporate brands) talk the language of capitalism because “it is the only game in town”. But arguably the most useful function his little book serves is to quote some dreadful statistics from The United Nations Human Development Report 2001 :
“. . . much of the world still lives in horrific poverty: in the developing world 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day . . . 2.8 billion live on less than $2 a day; 325 million children do not go to school; more than 8.5 million are illiterate; 11 million children under five die each year from preventable causes; nearly a billion people do not have access to improved water sources; and 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation” (p.71).
Mosbacher seeks to take the sting out of these awful figures by arguing that “the only countries in which we have seen large-scale poverty reduction in the 1990s are the ones that have become more open to foreign trade and investment”. He quotes some figures of poverty reduction which “may seem trivial to some in comparison with the overall scale of the problem . . .” Yes, they do.

Returning to the theme of marketing the revolution, the author lays into Naomi Klein’s No Logo. We, too, were under no illusions when we reviewed this best-selling book in our December 2000 issue: “Klein appears to believe that something worthwhile can be done within the system of capitalism.”

Mosbacher is scathing about the “success” that the anti-branding movement has achieved. He notes that Klein has been a star turn at international anti-corporate gatherings. Anti-capitalism and anti-branding are fashionable and popular but they aren’t daring, subversive, edgy. They take on board the culture, ethos, language and techniques of branding, and they use these to attack the brands themselves.

Mosbacher says the anti-capitalists have “no clear end-vision of where they want to be, except away from where we are.” But he likes being where we are, and doesn’t like or want revolution. For him, branding is a good thing: it “is an extremely useful invention in that it transmits a vast amount of information to the consumer in an instant.” So that’s all right, then.
Stan Parker

Question Everything (2002)

Book Review from the September 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

Question Everything by Melvin Chapman. Third Millennium Press. 

Nowhere in this book, or in his previous Third Millennium Press publications, does Melvin Chapman claim to be a socialist – he is indeed dubious of word “socialist” – but throughout Question Everything , as in his previous publications, we find the author clearly propagating the case for a world without money and articulating many of the arguments we in the Socialist Party have been using against our political opponents for decades

Chapman, for instance, tears into the concept of leadership on a number of occasions, arguing that we have been conditioned to accept that we are “intellectually deficient” and in need of betters who are “capable of organising and directing us”. And they of course cannot control events because it is the system that controls them; they too are “conditioned by the economic and political structures in which they were born”.

He is also critical of the reformist mentality, informing us how, “No reform, nor attempt to improve the system . . . can do more than ameliorate its inconsistencies.”

He is derisive of what passes for democracy in capitalist society, observing that there “can be no democracy in a complex system designed to justify inequality, a system in which the power of money carries the right to govern, in which the governed accept their own inferiority, lack of self-respect and sense of worth, a system in which crime, conflict, nationalism, racism, ethnic cleansing . . . is inevitable.”

“Only in self government can there be freedom with order.” And “freedom”? Chapman insists that “Freedom lies in a society in which we can work together free of the social structures that inhibit consensus and in a social, political and economic environment that does not actively promote differences and confrontations.” The rub is that “Freedom depends upon knowledge . . . knowledge upon information . . . [but] information is not knowledge . . . [because it is] limited and controlled . . . The individual has to have the facilities to understand and interpret, to know what there is to know and what questions to ask”

Chapman is at his best in attacking the logic of the profit system, for instance noting how “the money system has enabled the human species to develop the technology with which it dominates the earth, but it has become an excuse for ignoring the factors that impede its own social advance”. Highlighting the alienation the money system gives rise to, he comments: ”This creature Man . . . has allowed itself to be treated – and to treat itself – as of less consequence than a few copper coins, a few electronic pulses, no more than a dollar a day.”

He challenges the assumption that without money no one would work, pointing out how “the money system has given work a bad name, with connotations of long hours, stress, tiredness, monotony . . . even in this acquisitive society of ours, most of us do some sort of voluntary work . . . working for others is enjoyable provided that we do not feel that it is augmenting other people’s interests at our expense”. In a moneyless world, he maintains, “the man/woman power available would be virtually limitless. There would be plenty for them to do . . . our fellow man, our environment, our towns and cities, our talents and potentialities . . . there would be enough to keep us occupied for generations”.

He continues: “We assume that without money there would be anarchy, but it is the chaotic complexity of the money system and the governments required to maintain it that is anarchic.” There then follows a lengthy section in which Chapman envisages the benefits of a moneyless world before concluding that “the greatest benefit of all would be in the reduction or elimination of the anti-social emotions of greed, hatred, selfishness and aggression, which the money system makes inevitable and we would be able to treat ourselves and each other as the sort of human beings that we claim to be”.

A lot of this book is given over to how capitalist society conditions our consciousness; how it determines the way we think and act. Chapman is adamant we can overcome this conditioning and achieve the maturity needed to help forge a better world. And this “maturity” he contests, lies “in the ability to question our inherited assumptions and to replace our primitive responses, our need to compete with and eliminate each other, by recognition of our responsibility to ourselves and to the wider universe. To free ourselves we have to “run the gauntlet of inherited impediments”.

The book’s great weakness lies, undoubtedly, in the suggestion of how we can get from capitalism to the moneyless world of free access to the benefits of civilisation. For Chapman, “the actual process of getting rid of money would require no more than the creation of a single International currency, followed by the gradual reduction in interest rates and an expansion of the quantity of money in circulation until it ceased to have any value”. Here, a closer scrutiny of the workings of capitalism and the implications of such a process, might have prompted the author to rethink this statement.

Moreover, emphasis on the democratic road to a moneyless world, how it must be the free and class-conscious decision of the majority, would have enhanced this short book.

Accepting that Chapman does not claim to be a socialist and criticism aside, this work does have its merits in revealing, quite succinctly in places, the insanity of capitalism and in advancing the benefits of establishing moneyless system of society.

This self-published, short print-run book is available from the author at: Third Millennium Press, 51 Newton Road, Bath, BA2 1RW. No price is given.
John Bissett

50 Years Ago: Sidelights on Capitalist Rule (2002)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the themes of Mr. Harold Nicolson’s biography of the late King George V is that he showed a good grasp of problems of government and, indeed, the examples quoted do seem to indicate that he often displayed more insight and level-headedness than some of the leading politicians. But what is the major problem of the governments of capitalism? It is of course to keep the working class as far as possible satisfied with the system under which they are exploited, and if they can’t be kept satisfied, at least to keep them quiet. One example selected by a Manchester Guardian reviewer is George V’s handling of the political crisis which brought down MacDonald’s Labour Government in 1931 and led to the formation of a “national” three party government with MacDonald as Prime Minister.

During the crisis the King interviewed the leader of the Liberals Sir Herbert Samuel and according to Mr. Nicolson’s account this is what was said:-
“Sir Herbert ‘told the King that, in view of the fact that the necessary economies would prove most unpalatable to the working-class, it would be to the general interest if they could be imposed by a Labour Government. The best solution would be if Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, either with his present or with a reconstituted Labour Cabinet, could propose the economies required. If he failed to secure the support of a sufficient number of his colleagues, then the best alternative would be a National Government composed of members of the three parties.’”
Further information was given by Sir Oliver Wigram in his record of a later discussion with the King. He says that the King found:-
“Sir Herbert Samuel the clearest-minded of the three and said he had put the case for a National Government much clearer than either of the others. It was after the King’s interview with Sir Herbert Samuel that His Majesty became convinced of the necessity for the National Government.”
When MacDonald went to see the King to tell him that “all was up” with the Labour Government, the King impressed on him “that he was the only man to lead the country through this crisis and he hoped he would reconsider the situation.”

It would certainly seem that Sir Herbert Samuel (now Viscount Samuel) had a very shrewd idea of the part a Labour Government can play in keeping capitalism on an even keel.

(From Socialist Standard , September 1952)

News in Review: Top Men (1960)

The News in Review column from the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Top Men

The rearrangement of Mr. Macmillan's government caused quite a storm. The appointment of a member of the House of Lords as Foreign Secretary was responsible for a lot of the criticism and several newspapers had hard things to say on some of the other changes. In America, Senator Kennedy won the Democratic nomination for the Presidential election in November, despite the fact that he is a Roman Catholic—and Catholics for a long time have been considered a poor political risk in the States. His opposite, Vice-President Nixon, also caused a stir by refusing to pander to some of the regional prejudices of the Republican Party and selecting a New Englander, Mr. Cabot Lodge, as his running mate.

Are changes at the top all that important? Certainly, at election and other times each party reviles the opponents as incompetent and unworthy whilst offering itself as benevolent and efficient. But whatever influence on events the political leaders may have, what really counts is the fact that society as a whole supports the continuance of capitalism. That, in the end, determines the policies and actions of the world's leaders. And capitalism is vicious and anarchic, whichever party is in power and whoever happens to be at the top in the parties at any particular time.

Seamen on strike

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, we are told, is not an anti trade union Act but just one of those pieces of legislation which are necessary because they keep the vital wheels of society turning. The fact is that on August 11th eight seamen were sentenced to one month's imprisonment because, by striking work aboard the S.S. Castilian, they had contravened one of the Act's sections by disobeying a lawful order.

There are many Acts which, under the pretence of safeguarding the community's welfare, hedge round trade unionist activity with severe restrictions. One of these is the Electricity (Supply) Act of 1919, which may be used if the power station workers come out.

One simple method of safeguarding the community's welfare, keeping the ships sailing and making everybody happy, is to grant the seamen's wage demands. As a result of the recent agreement signed by the National Union of Seamen, a steward or seaman would earn a basic wage of about £40 a month with all found. To get this up to a reasonable level, he must work a lot of overtime. When he is ashore, of course, he is much worse off.

There can be nothing but commendation for any efforts to improve the seamen's working conditions. Time was when sailors were brutal and illiterate men. Capitalism has turned them into the regimented technicians which they are today.

They are like factory workers afloat. And like any landlubber, they are forced to fight to keep their heads a respectable distance above the economic waves.

Who's crazy now?

The man who claimed at Trenton, New Jersey, U.S.A., that he had built his own Atomic bomb in the basement of his house, and that it was timed to explode in 15 hours was immediately rushed away to hospital under observation. It seems that the authorities suspected him of being mentally ill. Yet scientists, who laboured for years to produce this same bomb, and even worse horrors, in the shape of hydrogen bombs, nuclear rockets, etc., are not thought to be mentally sick—oh no—they are lauded as having made a real contribution to the knowledge of society and the “defence of peace.”

Upset Swedes

President Eisenhower upset a lot of Swedes when, in his speech to the Republican Convention, he drew attention to the high suicide rate in Sweden and held this up as a warning against supporting what he called Socialism. It was rather unwise of the President to be so selective in his evidence to support his argument. Doubtless, some other comparisons would indicate that life in Sweden is preferable to that in, say, the United States. Presumably, Eisenhower was trying to frighten the American voters off the Democratic Party by associating them with Socialism. This is just as nonsensical as his assertion that Sweden is a Socialist country.

In fact, as the Dagens Nyheter—a Swedish Liberal paper—pointed out, Sweden's suicide rate, in a world where suicide is common, is unremarkable. It is now lower than during the five years preceding World War I and less than in Japan, Austria and many other countries. If the reasons for the majority of suicides in Sweden are the same as elsewhere, then the high Swedish rate is a symptom of the capitalist set-up in that country. For most of those who put an end to their lives do so when the strain of living under capitalism becomes too much for them. Sweden, like the rest, has the desperate problems which go with a brutal social system. Perhaps the next time an American President decides to attack Socialism, he will first take the precaution of finding out what it is?


With the beginning of 1961, the farthing will no longer be legal tender in this country. Not so long ago, this little coin could buy a pocketful of sweets. Sometimes it came as change from the artful shopkeeper whose price of, say, two and elevenpence three farthings was meant to sound much less than three shillings. Now, to use the jargon, the farthing is to be demonetised.

Many older people sigh for the days when the farthing had some use. When, for that matter, the penny and the pound were worth that much more. But there is another side to the picture. According to the Ministry of Labour indices, average weekly wage rates in 1938 were one-third of those today, whilst prices have nearly trebled.

Put in another way, the amount of real wealth which a worker’s wage commands in this country has altered very little over the past twenty years. Certainly not enough to justify the laments of the old-timers or the joy of the alright Jacks.

The fact is that a worker’s wage is generally just about large enough to buy the things he needs to reproduce himself. That situation is not altered by the revaluation of currencies, upwards or downwards. In fifty years’ time a British government may decide to demonetise the shilling or some other currency unit. And when they have done it the poverty of the working class will be as acute as before.

Salad Days
Tomato growers in certain areas of France, where the cost of living has risen, have threatened to allow their crops to rot unless they can obtain better prices for them. They will not be encouraged by the prices quoted in the Paris newspaper France Soir today.
This snippet, from The Guardian of 9th August, is another morsel of proof—if any more is needed—of the motive for production in capitalist society. Here is an example of food being grown, not to satisfy hunger or desire, but to realise a profit for the owners of the means of its production. We can offer more encouragement than France Soir. A sensible society would grow tomatoes for people to eat and would only allow them to waste when the world’s needs had been generally satisfied.

Classic Reprint: Atrocities in the Congo (1960)

A Classic Reprint from the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Congo has dominated the headlines in the past few weeks. Readers will find the following—from the Socialist Standard of December 1914—of great interest. The information in the article was largely based on British Government White Paper, Africa No. 1, 1904 (CD 1933) and "Red Rubber," by E. D. Morel.
In the sixties and seventies of last century the great commercial countries saw enormous possibilities in the creation of new markets, arising out of notable discoveries by explorers in Central Africa, and each wished to acquire as large an outlet as possible for their own manufactures. The scramble commenced.

The discovery of the Congo Basin by Stanley was the most significant of all, and in this direction the late King Leopold II turned his attention. Having previously juggled successfully with Suez Canal and other shares, he had amassed a considerable fortune. He sent several investigating expeditions, consisting mostly of Englishmen and Germans (how strange !) assuring the world that his intentions were purely scientific and severely disinterested. To carry on this work Leopold formed a company styled “The International African Association.”

This bloody and astute king capitalist played his cards like an expert. He became a member of the Aborigines Protection Society, and promised to support lavishly the missionary societies of England and America. He captured the British Chambers of Commerce by declaring that if the commercial communities supported his proposals the Congo trade would be open to them and would be exempt from all fiscal restrictions.

After a time the various powers became uneasy and jealous as to who should control this vast and rich land. Certain suggestions were considered with a view to placing it under international control. Then on the suggestion of the Portuguese it was decided to recognise the sovereignty of Portugal on both banks of the river up to a certain limit inland, to declare the river open to the world, and to place it under an Anglo Portuguese Navigation Commission to which the accession of the other Great Powers would be welcome. After introducing clauses protecting traders against exaggerated tariffs, and for the protection of the natives (!), etc., the treaty was signed.

But Leopold had not been playing to the gallery for nothing, and immediately the treaty was denounced by the British Chambers of Commerce and the philanthropic societies. The British Government was accused of betraying national interests, and the Portuguese Government was accused by its bosses of a similar crime. France, encouraged by the clamour, became resolutely hostile, and Bismarck, on behalf of Germany, kicked. Belgium was now in an unique position, and received the reluctant support of the British Government, with a proviso to secure freedom of trade, etc. Bismarck’s proposal of an International Conference was assented to, and was opened “in the name of God,” on Nov. 25, 1884.

Fourteen powers were represented, and their first consideration was for the welfare of the natives ! Such was the slimy cant and hypocrisy that we are told “the delegates, figuratively speaking, fell upon each other’s necks and wept with emotion.” They placed the Congo Basin in the hands of Leopold’s company. Articles were signed to ensure the utmost freedom to all capitalists, and for the preservation of the natives, the suppression of slavery and the slave trade, and “the protection of all . . . institutions which aim at instructing the natives and bringing home to them the blessings of civilisation.” We shall see, presently, what these “blessings o£ civilisation” were.

On August 1st, 1885, Leopold notified the signatory Powers that the International African Association would henceforth be known as the Congo Free State, with himself as sovereign of that “State.” Almost immediately followed a decree claiming all vacant lands as the property of the State. Another decree limited the rights of the native to the area upon which his hut was built, whilst another prohibited the hunting of the elephant “throughout the whole of the State’s territory” (three-fourths of which had never been trodden by a white man). Then they commenced recruiting an army of the most savage tribes. These natives could either volunteer or were taken in raids. For every recruit of the latter order the State officer obtained a bonus according to the physical fitness of his captive. Male children were also taken and drafted to military instruction camps to be made soldiers in due course. Having secured and trained sufficient recruits they set out with a mandate from Christendom to exterminate the Arabs, who had up to then been trading with the natives. Their object was to obtain the vast stores of ivory and rubber in the Arabs’ possession and to capture their markets. This accomplished, everything was clear for Leopold and his thieves’ gang to commence business.

On Sept. 21st 1891 a secret decree was issued to the State officials in Africa, stating that it was the paramount duty of the Congo Free State to raise revenue, and “to take urgent and necessary measures to secure for the State the dominal fruits, notably ivory and rubber.” Other regulations followed, which forbade the natives selling rubber or ivory to European merchants, and threatened the latter with prosecution if they bought these articles from the natives.

The merchants protested, and Leopold defined the position. Everything, he told them, belonged to the State—the land and the produce thereof. The natives were tenants upon State property. If they interfered with that property they were poachers ; and whoever abetted them were poachers, receivers of stolen goods, and violators of the law. How simple and concise !

Other secret documents were dispatched to the Governor-General baiting him to do his utmost to obtain the produce from the natives, “sparing no means.” A sliding scale was fixed by which officials were paid. The less it cost to obtain the goods the greater the bonus ; the more it cost to get the goods the less for the official. In other words, the less the native got for his ivory and rubber the larger the official’s commission and the more for the thieves on top !

One can pretty well guess the nature of the orders of tha Governor to his subordinates, and of the subordinates to their subordinates. Here is a typical one from Commandant Verstracten to the officials in charge of stations in the Rubi Welle district :
“I have the honour to inform you that from Jan. 1st 1899, you must succeed in furnishing 4,000 Kilos of rubber every month. To this effect I give you carte blanche. You have, therefore, two months in which to work your people. Employ gentleness at first, and if they persist in not accepting the imposition of the State, employ force of arms.”
Here is an extract from another :
“Decidedly these people of Inoryo are a bad lot. They have just cut some rubber vines at Huli. We must fight them until their absolute submission is obtained, or their complete extermination.”
Under this system £13,715,664 worth of raw produce was forced out of the Congo natives during the seven years preceding 1906 by the hirelings of this royal member of the Aborigines Protection Society and his confederates.

Let us now see how the rubber was acquired under the stimulus of bonuses and force. The information is furnished by Belgian and French, traders (who, no doubt, felt sore at being outdone by the State monopoly), and travellers and missionaries. The most brutal act of the “German Huns” sinks into insignificance compared with some of them.

The procedure was by levying a tax on the villages and towns payable in kind, and State soldiers would be sent to demand payment—so much ivory or rubber as well as food stuffs—every week or month as the case might be. But let the eye witness describe. The following is au extract from a letter written as early as 1892 by a resident of Likini.
“The frequent wars upon the natives undertaken without any cause by the State soldiers sent, out to get rubber and ivory, are depopulating the country. The soldiers find that the quickest and cheapest method is to raid villages, seize prisoners, and have them redeemed against ivory, etc. . . . Each agent of the State receives 1,000 fr. commission per] ton of ivory, and 175 fr. per ton of rubber.”
This, the reader will notice, was about a year after the decree urging the officials to secure the “dominal fruits.” The bloody events that followed have never been surpassed. The following is from the diary of E. J. Glave, an “independent English traveller” who crossed the Congo in 1891-5. It appeared in the “Century Magazine” in 1896.
“Up the Ikelemba away to Lake Mantumba the State is perpetrating its fiendish policy in order to obtain profit. War has been waged all through the district of the Equator, and thousands of people have been killed. Many women and children were taken, and twenty-one heads were brought to Stanley Falls, and have been used by Captain Rom as a decoration round a flower bed in front of his house.”
The following piece of information was given to the British Consul, Roger Casement, and is quoted in his report (p. 43.)
“Each time the corporal goes out to get rubber, cartridges are given to him. He must bring back all not used ; and for every one used he must bring back a right hand. . . . Sometimes they shot a cartridge at an animal in hunting ; they then cut off a hand from a living man. … In six months, on the Momboyo River they had used 6,000 cartridges, which means that 6,000 people are killed or mutilated. It means more than 6,000, for the soldiers kill children with the butt of their guns.”
If a soldier returned to his station without a sufficient number of hands to make up for the rubber he had not brought, he was shot by his superiors. A native corporal described how in one day he had brought 160 hands home to his officer and they were thrown into the river. Another individual testifies to a village (Katoro) being attacked. Many were killed, including women and children. The heads were cut off and taken to the officer in charge, who sent men back for the hands also, and these were pierced and strung and dried over the camp fire. On another occasion a large town was attacked ; hands and heads cut off and taken to the officer. The witness said : “I shall never forget the sickening sight of deep baskets of human heads.”

According to Roger Casement many had their ears cut off ; also the native soldier, after being told “You kill only women ; you cannot kill men,” would mutilate the bodies and carry the sexual organs to the officer. In fact, in the Mongalla massacre of 1899 the agents confessed to ordering sexual mutilation. Consul Casement says that “this was not a native practice, but the deliberate act of soldiers of an European administration . . . and that in committing these acts they were but obeying the positive orders of their superiors.

In some cases when protests were made to the Congo Courts a mock trial ensued. Lacroix, one of the agents in the Mongalla region was thus held up, and he confessed to having been instructed by his superiors to attack a certain village for shortage of rubber, and to having killed in his raid many women and children. He said:
“I am going to appear before the judge for having killed 160 men, cut off 60 hands ; for having crucified women and children, for having mutilated many men and hung their sexual remains on the village fence.”
Terms of imprisonment were inflicted, but were never served. Why ? Because “they had acted on instruction.”

The Congo Free State is split up into several “Companies” or “Trusts,” each occupying a specific area. One named “The King” was worked in the interest of Leopold’s private purse. Other portions were handed over for stewardship to financiers, “personal friends and officials of his European Court,” etc. In the “Companies” the King or the State usually held half the shares. One is named the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company. In six years this company, with the aid of the State soldiers, made a nett profit of £720,000 out of the rubber slave trade on a paid-up capital of £9,280 ! Thus each share of a paid up value of £4 6s. 6d. has received £335 in the same time. King Leopold held 1,000 of these shares.

However, it seems quite clear that, although the Belgian capitalists, backed by the arms of the State, had a big hand in this dirty business, there was along with them the international gang of plunderers. If this were not so, why was it that, although the evidence of these devilish horrors was before the Governments of America, Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, and the rest of them for years, they did not move to stop them ? Why was it that for six years the British Government was continually having reports of atrocious maladministration on the Congo and yet refused to move ? Why, indeed, did it absolutely suppress these reports—which it has never yet made public? Sir Henry Johnston, who has travelled a good deal in that direction, is evidently in the know. He says : “If there have been bad Belgians on the Congo, there have been bad Englishmen, ruthless Frenchmen, pitiless Swedes, cruel Danes, unscrupulous Italians.” (See preface to Morel’s “Red Rubber,”)

1960 Postscript

These were the atrocities which were responsible for the formation, at the beginning of this century, of the Congo Reform Association. One supporter of the Association was the late Arthur Conan Doyle, who in 1909 wrote a lengthy pamphlet called The Crime of the Congo. This pamphlet was an account of the barbarities which the agents of the Belgian rubber companies committed against the Congo natives. Some of the examples given by Doyle also appeared in the Socialist Standard of December, 1914.

Even in a world which is accustomed to organised savagery, Doyle's pamphlet is shocking to read. But one piece of it induces a grim smile on the reader's face:
"Sir Edward Grey has told us in his speech of July 22nd, 1909, that a danger to European peace lies in the matter. . . . Whence does it come? Is it from Germany, with her traditions of kindly home life—is this the power which would raise a hand to help the butchers of the Mongalla and of the Domaine de la Couronne? . . . Both in the name of trade rights and in that of humanity Germany has a long score to settle on the Congo.  . . . Or, lastly, is France the danger?  . . . For my own part, I cannot believe it. I know too well the generous, chivalrous instincts of the French people. . . ."
Consider the work of the kindly, home-loving Nazis. The most brutal of Leopold II's commissaries would have been aghast at their concentration camps. The French have shown us in Algeria that they have instincts other than the generous and chivalrous. Obviously, Doyle was wide of the mark when he thought that only the Belgians were capable of perpetrating such outrages.

Are we, then, being wise after the event? No. Socialists know that, when they expand their influence by conquest and colonisation, the capitalist powers often resort to violent coercion. And because we know that as capitalists they all have the same interests, we have never supported one ruling group against another. Atrocities which are committed in the process of expanding an empire are not the work of only one or a few countries. Every colonial power has done its share. Violence and terror are part of the atrocious capitalist system of society.
Editorial Committee.

The Weakness of CND (1960)

From the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
"Writing only a few years after the end of the second world war and witnessing on every hand the active preparations for another on an even more gigantic scale, it is not necessary to emphasise that war is literally an issue of life and death for men, women and children in every part of the globe. Nor is it necessary to prove at length that another war may be immeasurably more destructive of life and the means of sustaining life than were the wars from which the human race has suffered already during the present century. Everyone who takes even a casual interest in news of the atom and hydrogen bombs and other weapons of mass destruction of cities and peoples has received some impression of the agonising fate that may be in store for all the centres of civilisation if the Powers again come into armed conflict."
Ten years ago, the writer stood on a little wooden platform in a North London suburb, flourishing a copy of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. With youthful earnestness he was haranguing the multitude—eight members of the local branch (trying hard to look like genuine strollers stayed by the speaker's eloquence), one school boy, two very old gentlemen, one ”mum” encumbered with Saturday shopping, and, of course, the alert and sympathetic mongrel.

The atomic scientists had written with concern, many with disgust—about the terrible effects of the weapon (conceived in 1942), which in desperate haste, the American Government was developing in an attempt to maintain its atomic supremacy—the "Hydrogen Bomb.”

Few stopped to listen. People did not want to hear about nuclear weapons or war or politics. They had had their fill. The piteous agonies of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were relatively unknown and their import not understood. Such knowledge tormented only an insignificant few who lacked the resources to make known all the terrors of the past and the perils of the future. Others even more knowledgeable, such as the Labour Cabinet, under Mr. Attlee, whose representative was present at the bombing of Nagasaki, quietly arranged the making of a British atomic bomb—thereby smoothing the way for nuclear weapon development under the Conservatives. The so-called Communists who in 1945 had called for further attacks on Japan, were engaged in nullifying the western monopoly of atomic striking power by a hypocritical "Ban the Bomb” campaign.

Later, in 1954, the tragic incident of the Japanese fishermen aroused the anger of millions in Japan and stirred many thousands in other countries to protest. In Britain information about the nature of atomic weapons was gradually assimilated and after a number of false starts, the National Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapon Tests came into being. From it, in 1958, sprang the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Long before the emergence of CND, members of the Socialist Party had become aware of the problems associated with nuclear warfare and weapon tests. Did the use or testing of nuclear weapons make it necessary to modify our political standpoint in any way? Must we deal with the nuclear menace first in order to make the world safe for Socialism? Much discussion ensued and in this article, therefore, we put forward a point of view which is neither a dogmatic response to a new situation nor a hastily conceived compromise designed to gain political support.

As there are still a number of "Campaigners’' who are attempting to change Labour Party policy, it may be useful to comment briefly on the Labour Party’s actions in the past. In its history it has supported several major wars; it was in office when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. It has supported the testing of nuclear weapons and in fact, is committed to the use of hydrogen bombs in an “ all-out ” war.

Those who support the Labour Party—which is alleged to have been struggling for Socialism and the “Brotherhood of Man,” are now reduced after fifty-four years of " Socialist" thinking and re-thinking, to seek CND support on grounds which, were the issues not so tragic, would be laughable. After having played a vital part in the making of atomic weapons they have the effrontery to claim a sympathetic hearing from "Campaigners" on the grounds that a minority of the Labour Party are now wholly or partly opposed to nuclear weapons—and this is supposed to he a Socialist Party!

In 1950, the writer recalls asking a Labour Party member how he could reconcile his party’s support of atomic weapons with its professed concern for human brotherhood. After a very apologetic defence, his parting words were, "Ah! Wait till the conference! We’ll show the right-wingers!" Every year we have heard the same pathetic tale. Now, when pressure from CND and elsewhere has made an anti-nuclear weapon vote a possibility at the Labour Party Conference, the Parliamentary Labour Party is considering ways to avoid implementing such a decision!

It is a tragedy that so many well-meaning people spend their lives attempting to build a more sensible world through the Labour Party. If they pondered deeply they would see that in the early days of this century, when Labour Party supporters chose to disregard the sounder theoretical (and therefore more practical) position of the Socialist Party, the path was taken which eventually led to Labour Party support of the trench massacres, the deliberate saturation bombing of working class dwelling areas, the atomic bombings, nuclear weapons and their testing and other chemical and bacteriological weapons. May we say to those young people who seek to use the Labour Party as an instrument of social change, that the problems which now confront us are, in fact, the result of the allegedly more practical policies of those parties prepared to administer capitalism. It would be quite illogical to assist those who bear a share of the responsibility for a world where our innocent children play in the shadow of deadly rockets, as yet unaware of the insidious strontium in their bones.

What have we to say about the Campaign itself? To Socialists, to see so many people expressing their displeasure, after a long period of political inactivity, at the stupidity and recklessness of their rulers, was a refreshing change. Discontent, however, if it is not to undergo an eventual decline from determined idealism to a hopeless cynicism, must partake of sound theory. What has held "Campaigners” together, so far, has been a common revulsion against one of the weapons of mass- murder and a belief that even if the movement was divided in its aims and methods, it was the only means by which the semi-apathetic majority of ordinary people, on whom the pro-Bomb parties relied for support, could be shaken from their dangerous lethargy.

When one examines the propositions of the Campaign — Sanity or Suicide, page 8. —, its inadequacies can clearly be seen. CND says that all wars, even if they did not start as nuclear wars, would become nuclear wars, because the losing side would use nuclear weapons. If it accepts that all wars are going to be nuclear wars and it claims to be opposed to nuclear wars, then it follows that it should oppose all wars. It does not take up this position, however, for at no time does it advocate opposition to conventional weapons.

The fundamental weakness of the Campaign is emphasised in one of its own comments on the subject of nuclear weapons, for it says: “ Even if they had been outlawed and stocks destroyed, the knowledge would be there in the heads of the scientists and they'd be made again." In other words, even if the Campaign achieved its aim it would soon have to start all over again . . . and again! If, as it suggests, however, society would not survive another war, it would be wiser to take sound political action now rather than wait to see the awful results of an admittedly futile policy.

Some “Campaigners,” while agreeing that capitalism is the cause of war in the modern world, maintain that although a new social organisation may be necessary, a nuclear war would prevent the establishment of this, perhaps for all time, and therefore the anti-nuclear movement should be given priority over Socialism. This argument is logically unsound; it assumes that which has yet to be demonstrated. It presupposes that the Campaign will be able to prevent a nuclear war occurring. For the Campaign to “ succeed” it must have a majority of people who are opposed unconditionally to nuclear weapons, in the major countries of the world. These majorities must be prepared to oppose their own governments, to put aside all nationalistic feeling or racial prejudice and be immune to all attempts of their rulers to influence them during periods of international crisis and tension. Is it possible that such internationalist solidarity could be achieved by a movement which is composed of so many fundamentally diverse elements and which lacks any clear conception of an alternative to our inhuman social system? Only a revolutionary Socialist consciousness could ensure such a united unshakeable attitude and in that event the question of opposition to nuclear weapons alone would be redundant.

Some members of CND are conscious of its lack of a positive social policy, and they have devoted much effort in examining the causes of war and other current social problems. It does not seem, however, that the depth and value of the genuine Marxist analysis of society have yet been understood. The leaders of the Campaign still have many illusions about the effectiveness of the United Nations Organisation as an instrument for peace, although they are not unmindful of the economic and political pressures which can be brought to bear on it by the two great power blocs. Sincere attempts to initiate a serious discussion within their movement seldom go beyond a humane liberalism; even the contributions of its associates in the New Left movement are devoid of any ideas radically different from their political predecessors of past decades.

Finance and Industry: American Democrats & British Labour (1960)

The Finance and Industry Column from the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

American Democrats & British Labour

In their economic policy and ideas on the way to deal with threats of unemployment there are many resemblances between the American Democrats and the Labour Party, and both have been much influenced by Keynesian theories. The following summary of the Democrats’ policy in the Presidential election, written by a correspondent of the Economist (6/8/60) could almost all of it have been written about the Labour Party and their slight differences from the Conservatives:
The Democrats assert that the past eight years have consisted of “ two recessions . . . .  separated by the most severe peace-time inflation in history,” and they blame the Administration's tight money policy for the present slackness in business. They blame credit restraint also for adding to the cost of servicing the growing public debt. The Democrats offer to end the tight money-policy and to set the economy moving forward at the brisk rate of 5 per cent, each year “without inflation.” How inflation can be avoided is not revealed in detail, although "a variety of remedies” is said to be at hand; since "monetary and credit policies properly applied" are among these, it is not clear how the Democratic policy would differ from the Republican in practice. The Democrats are, however, more willing than are the Republicans to counteract recessionary trends by prompt spending on public works and by temporary tax cuts.
It will be seen thal the Democrats and the Labour Party both favour low interest rates and a policy of cncouraging a greater expansion of production; and both accuse their opponents of having been responsible for inflation and high prices—forgetting how inflation went on when they were in power, up to 1951 in Britain and 1953 in U.S.A. Both parties believe that it is now within the power of a government to rule out for all time the possibility of a severe depression, and if anything approaching a severe depression does occur under Republican or Tory government it will be blamed on their perversity or ineptness.

Of course, experience of Labour and Democrats in office before the last war did not support their confidence about their powers. The British Labour Party came in with a promise to reduce unemployment (then at about 1,100,000) and saw it leap to 2½ million. In U.S.A. Roosevelt was elected in 1933 and seven years later unemployment in U.S.A. was still 14.3 per cent. (16.9 per cent., according to the American trade unions).


Mr. Macmillan has been exhorting business men to increase their exports and to cultivate what he called “export joy,” but he made it clear that what is wanted is an aggressive selling policy in overseas markets. As all the newspapers backed him up, as also did some trade union spokesmen, we may assume that selling more goods in foreign countries is generally considered "a good thing.”

But, elementary as it may appear to be, there are numberless people who write about trade who have never yet grasped that one country's exports are another's imports. So we read in the Sunday Dispatch (17/7/60) that many of the 400 of Britain's trade chiefs who are being urged by Macmillan to join in the fun of selling more abroad, could see nothing at all funny in the Japs "selling more abroad" in Britain. On the contrary, they ‘‘were seething yesterday as they digested the Jap pact," which "will flood Britain with an extra £3.000,000 worth of cheap Japanese goods." The ground for their anger was said to be the cheapness of the Japanese goods, against which British manufacturers could not compete—but it is certain that every additional ton of British goods sold in a foreign market through the export drive will work up some local manufacturer into seething indignation, too.

One commentator on Macmillan's speech (Daily Herald, 18/7/60) recalled that “this is the biggest ‘export crisis' session since the days when Sir Stafford Cripps went round the country exhorting British industry to make its post-war export drive." He might equally and more usefully have recalled an earlier speech of Sir Stafford Cripps, made during the war, when he said that “If . . . . we were to start once again the vicious circle of international trade competition we should be lost, and in a few years would be confronting another war."

World Food

Early in August a Freedom From Hunger Conference was held at Oxford under the auspices of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. Lord Boyd Orr, former Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization spoke, as he often has before, about the almost boundless possibility of increasing world food production:
If the nations of the world will cooperate, we can wash out the hunger of the world in ten years, and provide enough food for the increasing world population for the next 100 years." (Daily Telegraph, 2/8/60.)
He attacked the profit motive and complained that only in war-time will governments set out to provide food according to human need—at which lime, though he did not say this, they will also organize for destruction of life and property utterly without regard to cost.

The Assistant Director-General of U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Mr. Veillet-Lavallee, said that “there is now less to eat in the Far East than there was before the war,” and “in some parts of Africa 80 per cent. of the children are underfed or badly fed." (News Chronicle, 1/8/60.) He also stated that North America’s surplus wheat now amounts to 1,382,000 bushels a year and that it costs £350,000 a day to preserve the surplus which they hold because they cannot sell it.

Boom in land

For weeks the newspapers and politicians have been discussing the rocketing prices of land as more and more keen buyers chase after the shrinking acres available for use as building sites. Nearly ninety years ago Frederick Engels wrote a series of articles on the Housing Question for the Leipzig Social-Democratic paper Volkstaat. In them he had this to say about the situation then:
The growth of the big modern cities gives the land in certain areas, particularly in those which are centrally situated, an artificial and often colossally increasing value; the buildings erected in these areas depress this value, instead of increasing it, because they no longer correspond to the changed circumstances. They are pulled down and replaced by others. This takes place above all with workers’ houses which are situated centrally and where rents, even with the greatest overcrowding, can never, or only very slowly, increase above a certain maximum. They are pulled down and in their stead, shops, warehouses and public buildings are erected. Through its Haussmann in Paris, Bonapartism exploited this tendency tremendously for swindling and private enrichment. But the spirit of Haussmann has also been abroad in London. Manchester and Liverpool, and seems to feel itself just as much at home in Berlin and Vienna. The result is that the workers are forced out of the centre of the towns towards the outskirts: that workers' dwellings, and small dwellings in general, become rare and expensive and often altogether unobtainable, for under those circumstances the building industry, which is offered a much better field for speculation by more expensive houses, builds workers’ dwellings only by way of exception.
But what goes up sometimes comes down equally fast and some land booms end in a crash. There are reports already that much of the recently built office accommodation is not meeting additional demand but squeezing out existing older buildings. The Star (19/7/60) had the following about a land crash in Venezuela:
Just when there is a great to-do about soaring land values in Britain here is some news about a land boom that has gone bust.

Out in Venezuela they have had one of the biggest slumps in land values since the famous Florida crash in the 20’s.

Office blocks, houses and property in Caracas have come tumbling down in price with the growing inability of Venezuela to sell her glut of oil in world markets.

In Caracas landlords, who three or four years ago could demand almost any price for accommodation, are now virtually bankrupt. For most of them have raised huge loans on inflated values, which have disappeared over night.
According to the Star some of the depressed property in Venezuela was backed by British and American insurance companies.
Edgar Hardcastle

King of Siam (1960)

From the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is said that today’s kings and queens are a ruling class indulgence. From recent press reports, it would appear that an exception is the King of Siam, who with his Queen, recently made his first State visit to this country.

Great play was made of the young King's activities outside of his constitutional duties. It would appear that some of his pastimes include fast cars and jazz. As a claim to his reputed democratic outlook, it is reported that his children study with 40 other youngsters. What is the other side of the picture? A semi-translation of the word “Thailand" means "Land of the free,” and yet conscription for two years is imposed upon every Siamese male. All political parties are banned. In 1959, a Thai national was executed for printing and distributing communist literature. The detention without trial continues of over 100 political prisoners. In Siam, no man can stand higher than the monarch and all Siamese who approach him must bow down on all fours. For nine-tenths of the people, he is their direct link with the gods. It was not so very long ago that a queen of Siam died when her boat overturned in a lake, as no one dared touch her head.

And we should not forget that extreme poverty exists in Thailand— according to some reports, it is about the worst in the world.

Apart from tin and rubber, Thailand's importance to western capitalism is in her closeness to China. Whilst it may be true that she is the only independent kingdom in south-east Asia that never became a colony of a foreign power, her geographical position, together with American aid, have combined to add yet another sphere of influence to the western powers. Hence the need for Thailand's ruling class to maintain its constitutional monarchy as a symbol of national stability.

We are told that the Siamese King's main object is to get out of Thailand, not, as one might assume, “while the going is good,” but to get about and learn with a view to be able to instruct his advisers and Government with a greater ”sureness of touch.” But reading of his London itinerary with all its pomp and circumstance should convince one that it is the puppet masters back in Thailand who hold the strings and make the decisions.
W. G. C.

UNO and Human Rights (1960)

From the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the diplomats and politicians of the various capitalist states get around conference tables, they very often snarl at one another and engage in mutual mud-slinging like of lot of spoiled children. They are looked up to as the representatives of nations and although they really represent only a small minority in each country, the capitalist class, workers are taught to regard them as great men. The average worker feels dwarfed and powerless beside these "mighty” minds, who have often met and not even been able to agree on an agenda or have had head-on battles over the shape of the table. Regardless of their different native tongues, they all speak the language of “King Capital” in the conference chamber. In the highly distrustful atmosphere which prevails among the highly dignified gentlemen who gather in these highly iniquitous places, there is a marked tendency to be regarded as naked unless clad in the “protective” armour of the hydrogen bomb.

Back in 1948 when the war was still fresh in everybody’s memory, these henchmen of the world’s ruling class were capable of sounding very lofty and humanitarian. Obviously after six terrible years of the unlimited butchery of working class men, women and children all over the world, the warlords had to make a show of peace-loving. The victims (or rather future victims) must not be allowed to get suspicious of the boss’s motives. Hence the vast propaganda agencies. Hence that elaborate white-elephant, the United Nations Organisation.

The Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed in December, 1948, by the General Assembly. It is worth while looking back at some of the articles in this declaration to see just how incapable of realisation these high-sounding ideals are under capitalism.

Article 1 of the International Declaration of Human Rights affirms “All men are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed by nature with reason and conscience, and should act toward one another like brothers!"

When capitalism really caught up with this U.N. dream in 1950, the U.N. became an instrument of war in Korea. Brotherhood and Reason were replaced with bloodshed and ruthlessness.

It is impossible to give here half the instances, where capitalism denies reason and brotherhood, but over-riding all else is the world-wide division of society into capitalist and working class The ownership of the means, of living by a few and the resultant exploitation of the many is the foundation upon which capitalism is reared. All antagonism arises from this fundamental cleavage of interest. What ”equality’’ or ”dignity” is possible within this relationship?

Article 2. "In the exercise of his rights everyone is limited by the rights of others and by the just requirements of the democratic state. The individual owes duties to society through which he is enabled to develop his spirit, mind, and body in wider freedom ”

The just requirements of the democratic state, find expression in things like conscription and often involves many people being blown to bits. Although this clause sounds very noble, because the “society” to which “the individual owes duties,” is capitalism, the freedom to develop spirit, mind and body, for the majority of people, takes the form of working all day in somebody else's factory, mine, or office.

Article 3.Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race (which includes colour), sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, or national or social origin.

What a prime piece of hypocrisy this clause is. Remember that America, Russia and Britain were parties to the Declaration. Russia has been a dictatorship since 1917, with only one legal political Party. America has its witch-hunts which produced the dreads of McCarthyism. Britain has, in its so-called family of nations, South Africa, with its brutal race laws.

A book, Minorities in the New World, by Wagley and Harris (Columbia University Press, 1958), has this to say:
“in the nation which has the world’s highest standard of living and a heritage of equality of opportunity for all men regardless of race, creed, or nation origin, approximately fifteen million Negroes in the United States have suffered from some of the most severe forms of economic, residential, educational and personal discrimination.” [page 19].

” In 1919, when millions of servicemen returned and looked for their old jobs, no fewer than 26 race riots broke out in American cities. The worst of these took place in Chicago. Twenty-three Negroes were killed, and 178 Whites and 342 Negroes were injured. A second rash of race riots developed during and after the Second World War, coinciding with a second wave of Negro migration from the South to the North. Economic insecurity of the Whites, and fear that the Negro is ‘rising' have been the principal causes of these outbreaks” [page 135].
We have already mentioned the crippling limitations which “social origin” places upon members of the working-class of both sexes and all nations and colours; let us press on to Article 4.

Everyone has the right to life, to liberty and security of person." While the lives of the working-class are spent making profits for the Capitalist Class, to talk of “liberty” is a mockery.

The world's populace has never had less “security of person” than today with the ruling classes represented by the same diplomats and politicians (or their successors) threatening each other with annihilation when they fail to agree about the division of the plunder.

Article 5.Slavery is prohibited in all its forms. ” If the capitalist class could not trust their legal word-spinners, this would be a very startling clause indeed. As it is the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, is just an empty mass of verbiage. Not a finger has been stirred by U.N.O. to remove wage- slavery. In fact, as more and more countries develop capitalism (instance Africa, India and China), wage-slavery is invading every last corner of the earth’s surface. The wages-system will require more than a U.N. proclamation to prohibit it.

To sum up, the following observation must be made. Proclamations will never abolish the economic conditions or the ignorance and narrowness from which racial discrimination arises. The man standing in a London bus queue can be heard to say, on seeing a coloured man drive by in a car, “They know how to get in, don’t they? ” The resentment of individuals over housing and jobs find many petty forms of expression. These are rooted in the very nature of capitalism. In a society based on a privileged and an exploited class relationship, finding scapegoats is inevitable as an outlet for the frustrations and privations suffered by the working class.

The U.N. declaration was perhaps never meant to be taken seriously. It was never intended to touch the fabric of capitalist society. If it can help to kid the workers that something will be done to keep them happy, it will have served its purpose. The present position shows the hazards of having faith in leaders. The way out is for workers themselves to understand their subject position and by taking enlightened political action for the first time, make the means of production the common properly of all mankind. This will abolish their undignified status as wage slaves, and in the same move relieve the masters of cant and humbug of the task of drafting windy declarations.
Harry Baldwin

Abundance and poverty (1960)

From the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

The point is often made, and in the material sense has some truth, that workers in some of the Western countries have never had it so good, and in relationship to the “Hungry Thirties” in Britain, it looks good. Unemployment in this country is very low, and the majority of workers in comparison to the Thirties are not so badly off. Capitalism is, of course, in a boom period that in some countries seems to go on for ever. If this is true, and we accept it for the sake of discussion, does this mean that our case has lost its validity? The answer is no. Socialism is a world wide system of society and we cannot reiterate this too much, so let us look at comparisons of wealth.

In America, surplus wheat which is rotting in storehouses, costs the Administration $370,000 a day rent to store after the Government has bought it at fixed prices. There is also a world surplus of sugar of some 13.7 million tons. On the other hand, 1,700 million people are today living without sufficient food and shelter, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. Again, the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief reports that food production in North America is up 20 per cent, and surplus wheat amounts to 1,382,000 bushels a year, and yet in the Far East there is less to eat than before the war. It follows therefore that the problems of the underfed and under-clothed is also our problem, wherever workers may be throughout the world.

There are both sympathisers and opponents of our case who say we do not support the struggles of these peoples to improve their conditions: this is not true. We support them in the only way that we can—with Socialist propaganda, showing that the movements to which they often give support are nationalistic in outlook and that they are aiming at changing masters and not the social system. A classic example of this is India, where they threw off the yoke of British Imperialism, but the Indian workers remain wage slaves.

Our task is not one of defending capitalism, in whatever guise. If we were to deviate from our purpose, of the establishment of Socialism, we would completely lose our identity and become another reformist party, one of the many who have made promises that could never be kept, within the framework of capitalism. No, the only solution lies in the understanding by the working class of the working of capitalism and the need for a classless, moneyless society.

Wheat farmers in America may not even be aware of the needs of society their first concern must be the profit made by sale of their corn. Wheat can rot in the storehouse of the North American continent and Indian workers can starve rather than sell the food at a loss. That is the stupidity of a profit making system. Socialism can and will provide the material and cultural needs of society as soon as the working class abolish for all time throughout the world a system that can produce super-abundance and poverty hand in hand.

Workers in the western hemisphere may think they are having it good.  Many families who run a car can now join the harassing and killing queues that line our roads every weekend or in the evenings they can watch .the “goggle-box" that churns out in the main a load of rubbish. And in the background the frightening spectacle of rockets with nuclear warheads that can traverse the world. Real wealth in human labour power that is dissipated on Blue Streaks, rockets or nuclear powered submarines could be put to the job of solving the real needs of the backward peoples, food, clothing and shelter and the right to live sane and intelligent lives.

The truth of the matter is we never had it so bad, and until workers realise that the problem of the eastern workers is fundamentally the same as that of his western counterpart, the capitalist world will blunder from crisis to crisis. To African workers we make a special plea. You are throwing off the yoke of imperialism and taking on the characteristics of national capitalism. Don't ask or expect us to support the various movements for Colonial freedom. We will not jump onto any nationalist bandwaggon in order to gain your support. Your problems in the last analysis are the same as ours. We want you to have a better life, and this you can only attain in a Socialist society.
Johnny Edmonds

50 Years Ago: Labour Party Discontents 1910 (1960)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard


Mr. Cecil Chesterton on J. R. MacDonald

As for the Labour men, they have been utterly routed in the South and Midlands, while in the North those that have kept their seats have only done so by exchanging their boasted independence for an abject dependence on Liberal votes. Where they have attempted a three-cornered fight, they have been not so much snowed under as entirely disregarded by the electorate. Mr. MacDonald is the most splendid organiser of defeat the world has ever seen.


Mr. MacDonald on his Party

If this irritating unsettlement, even if it is confined to a small section, is to go on year after year, the result is obvious. Men are not to waste their lives, when other spheres of useful activity are open to them, in controversy which is silly and in repelling criticisms which are often beneath contempt

From the Socialist Standard, September. 1910.

Sting in the Tail: Going Legit (1991)

The Sting in the Tail column from the September 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Going Legit

The Camorra of Naples now rivals the Sicilian Mafia In wealth and power.

Now their huge profits from drugs, smuggling and extortion are being invested in banking, industry, agriculture, etc., to the point where -
. . . their legal income is now greater than their illegal one.
The Guardian 25 July
This move away from illegal to legal activities is nothing new. Many of Britain’s "noblest" families began just like the Camorra and made their fortunes from land-theft, banditry and piracy. For example, Lord Home, Tory Prime Minister in 1963-4, proudly boasted that his ancestors had been border cattle thieves.

These earlier bandits have long since legitimised their operations and now legally plunder the working class through the wages system. The Camorra is only following in their footsteps.

Showing by Example

The Socialist Workers Party condemns those Labour councils which make economies by sacking workers.

It was Liverpool council's turn in Socialist Worker 27 July -
City Treasurer Phil Kelly unveiled plans which will mean real anguish for thousands of people.

To close a £10 million deficit, the council wants to push through another 155 compulsory redundancies In addition to the 160 already announced and the 460 resulting from the bins service privatisation.
The SWP insists that under no circumstances should the workers be sacked, but back in 1975 the SWP (then called The International Socialists) had to make economies. Its national committee reported that -
. . . extra efficiency will not save enough money so we considered the running of all the departments to see if they could possibly function on less workers. We decided that two should go from the printshop, one from Socialist Worker, and 2.5 from admin.
Dally Telegraph 13 March 1975
So the SWP's solution was exactly the same as the councils they condemn. A clear case of the Trotskyist pot calling the Labour kettle black.

Labour's "Socialists"

John Molyneux's column in Socialist Worker is titled "Teach Yourself Marxism" although anytime Scorpion has read it there has never been anything about Marxism in it.

That is until the issue dated 27 July when we read that Marx stood for "smashing the capitalist state". In fact he did stand for the abolition of the state but not for attacking it head on. No evidence for this "smashing" was given but it's a bit rich when someone who can write such nonsense urges anyone else to "Teach Yourself Marxism".

But Molyneux's column was mainly about the agonising time "socialists" are having in "Kinnock's Labour Party".

Who are these "socialists"and what do they get up to in an anti-socialist party? Molyneux tells us they are, among other things, "usually the most energetic canvassers and recruiters".

So here are "socialists" who devote much of their political activity to peddling Labour Party policies to workers; policies which are aimed solely at propping-up British capitalism. Some "socialists" these!

Crime and Punishment

As newspapers reveal some of the skullduggery that goes on The City, where million pound frauds are commonplace It is interesting to compare the fate in the courts of those committing these frauds with that of the working class who have been at the fiddle.

A recent example was reported in Glasgow in the local Evening Times (7 August) -
A man who stole his sister's DSS giro and cashed it has been jailed for six months . . .  He also admitted cashing it at Tormusk Post Office, Castlemilk and defrauding the DSS of £37.05.
Six months in nick for stealing £37.05! At that rate of punishment how long would those city-slickers spend in jail for their muti-million pound scams? There is a lot of truth in the old saying — never steal anything small!

Housing — the Facts

Amidst all the nonsense of the reformist political parties and their practical plans to deal with the "housing problem" it is interesting to note some of the hard facts about the so-called "housing problem". A recent issue of The Guardian provided some useful information about the present position -
  • 169,000 households are classed as homeless in Britain this year.
  • Between 30,000 and 40,000 people around the country are believed to sleep rough from time to time. About 5,000 sleep out in London each night.
  • There are 700,000 empty homes in the country, many awaiting repair; 100,000 are owned by councils, 600,000 by private landlords.
This ghastly situation is made all the more horrendous when you realise that there is no "housing problem" only a poverty problem. One that will last as long as we have wealth produced to realise a profit instead of the socialist society where everything, including housing, will be produced to satisfy human need.

Housing — More Facts

In case anyone imagines that a cause of the "housing problem" is a physical shortage of the ability to build houses we would point out a report in The Times (5 August) -
A quarter of a million construction workers are likely to lose their jobs during the recession, according to forecasts from the Building Employers Confederation...

Using official statistics, the BEC calculates that 150,000 construction jobs have been lost since the middle of last year. The federation predicts a further 100,000 will be lost by the middle of next year.
So there you have it — 160,000 homeless households, hundreds of thousands of houses needing repairs; and at the same time a quarter of a million construction workers thrown out of a job. But that is typical of capitalism — the economics of the madhouse.

The Pope Knows It!

The notion that state interference in the day to day running of capitalism has something to do with socialism is more and more being discredited. The events in Russia and Eastern Europe are glaring examples of this but now this fallacy has been so well exposed that even the Pope knows it now.

Pope John Paul II's latest encyclical Centesimus Annus commenting on the idea that government Intervention in the market system is socialism states:
In the struggle against such a system, what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be state capitalism . . .

What about Russia? (1991)

From the September 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is the Soviet Union socialist?

Of course not. Nobody believes that any more, do they?

But didn't they try socialism and it failed?

No. The Soviet Union has never at any time been socialist. Socialism has always meant a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production where goods and services are produced directly to satisfy people’s needs, not for sale on a market with a view to profit. Since 1917 the Soviet Union has always had state ownership not common ownership and this under a one-party dictatorship with goods and services still being produced for sale and profit. Lenin, whose government introduced this system, called it “state capitalism”. It was an accurate description. What has failed in the Soviet Union is this state capitalism not socialism.

But they called themselves socialists, didn't they?

Yes, but that is not enough to make someone a socialist. All sorts of people have called themselves socialist, including Hitler, Idi Amin and Colonel Gaddaffi. without anybody taking their claims seriously. The claims of the Soviet dictators should have been dismissed in the same way, and probably would have been if parties like the Communist Party which once had some influence amongst workers in Britain had not talked about "the socialist sixth of the world” and painted the Soviet government as governing in the interests of the workers.

So you say that this wasn't true?

Yes, that's right. It was a lie. and we exposed it right from the start earning ourselves the undying hatred of the Communist Party. The Soviet Union has never been socialist and the workers have never held power there. Socialism means a classless society but ever since their coup of 1917 power has been exercised by the Party bosses. Over time these evolved into a new ruling class, collectively owning the means of production and enjoying a privileged lifestyle—the notorious nomenklatura.

OK, you say the Soviet Union was state capitalist but whatever it was it failed, didn't it?

Sure, but don’t forget that all forms of capitalism in all countries have always failed to solve the problems facing wage and salary workers, and always will because capitalism is based on exploitation, whether the exploiters are rich private capitalists or privileged state bureaucrats. It is true that by the 1950s the centrally-planned state-capitalist economy completed under Stalin after Lenin’s death did begin to show signs of stagnation. Sections of the Soviet ruling class did realise this and under Khrushchev some reforms allowing market forces more freedom to operate were tried, but when the political implications of this for the rule of the Party bosses became clear Khrushchev was removed. Brezhnev took over and so began "twenty years of stagnation". Then came Gorbachev.

Wasn't Gorbachev forced to abandon Marxian economics and embrace the market?

No. You can’t abandon something you never accepted in the first place. Marx, who always insisted that socialism had to be democratic, would turn in his grave at what has been done in his name in the Soviet Union. It is quite true that he was against the market since it represented everything that he as a socialist saw as wrong with capitalism: impersonal forces controlling people’s lives instead of their own conscious democratic decisions; relations between people reduced to the cash nexus; profits being put before needs. Nor did Gorbachev have to restore the market in the Soviet Union since it has never ceased to exist there. Workers have always had to work for wages and purchase their needs. Enterprises have always tried to make a profit and have supplied each other on a buying and selling basis. It was these market relationships that the state tried to plan, with the aim of maximising profits not necessarily at enterprise level but on the economy as a whole.

So what was perestroika about then?

What Gorbachev inherited from Brezhnev was a stagnating state-capitalist economy where the attempt to control the market by central state commands had failed, resulting in a fall in the rate of profit in the Soviet Union—a serious matter in a profit-seeking economy such as the Soviet Union has always had. since profits are the source of funds not only for the privileges of the nomenklatura but also for re-investment in the more up-to-date productive equipment and techniques needed to remain competitive by international standards. To restore the rate of profit in the Soviet Union and make the Soviet economy more competitive, Gorbachev proposed abandoning the central command economy and allowing enterprises much more freedom to respond to market forces and profits.

So why did they overthrow Gorbachev?

Gorbachev represented that section of the Soviet ruling class who realised that things could not go on as before if the Soviet Union was to remain a powerful state in the capitalist world. They were prepared to move in the direction of western-style capitalism, even if this meant abandoning the dictatorship of the Communist Party and finding some other way of maintaining the power and privileges of their class. Those who overthrew him represent another section of the Soviet ruling class who are not prepared to surrender their political and economic privileges under the nomenklatura system.

So do you support Gorbachev?


What about Yeltsin?

Not him either.

So who do you support?

We are always on the side of the workers in any situation. Gorbachev and Yeltsin are capitalist politicians who represent one section of the Soviet ruling class. They merely have a different programme for increasing working class exploitation in the Soviet Union and restoring the rate of profit there from that of the military junta who seized power. Workers should not follow leaders in Russia any more than they should in any country. Instead they should look to their own democratic self-organisation both to defend their interests within capitalism and, once they have become socialists, to get rid of capitalism and replace it by real socialism. This means a society of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by all the people with goods and services being turned out to satisfy people's needs not for the market and profits.